England women earn Euro 2013 win against Netherlands

By Tony LeightonWomen's football reporter

A moment of quick-thinking by Arsenal winger Rachel Yankey gave England what should prove a decisive Women's Euro 2013 qualifying group victory.

Yankey curled home a 20-yard free-kick with the Dutch still organising their defensive wall following a 67th-minute foul on midfielder Fara Williams.

"Rachel was really clever there," said a delighted national coach Hope Powell.

"She asked the referee if she could take the free-kick quickly and it was a great shot."

There was no argument about the incident from Netherlands manager Roger Reijners, whose team are still two points ahead of England at the top of Group Six but have played a game more than Powell's side and have only one match remaining.

And with England's last two games against bottom teams Slovenia and Croatia, they are in pole position to claim the group's only automatic place at the finals in Sweden. Powell's team have already beaten Slovenia 4-0 and Croatia 6-0.

And after a hard-fought win against the current group leaders they should head into Thursday's game against Slovenia confident of picking up another three points.

"We're in the driving seat now," said Powell, "and that's where we feel we should be.

"But it's very important that we don't slip up now, we have to see the job through and we can't take any team for granted.

"Our performance today wasn't the best we've played. We were average in the first half but then we dug deep in the second half.

"We showed more grit and enthusiasm and in the end we deserved to win what I thought was a scruffy game."

Powell's side improved after an opening half-hour in which either side might have taken the lead.

England goalkeeper Rachel Brown had to turn a sixth-minute shot from left winger Lieke Martens past the near post.

And two minutes later striker Rachel Williams had a goalbound header held on the line by keeper Loes Geurts.

The home side should have taken the lead in the 26th minute, but right winger Eni Aluko shot weakly at Geurts after collecting a good pass by Williams.

A better effort by Netherlands striker Manon Melis forced Brown into a fine diving save just before the half-hour.

England began to build up pressure as half-time approached, but some poor passing in the final third continually halted their progress.

It was a similar story after the break, though Aluko went close with a 57th-minute effort that drifted just wide of the far post.

Then came Yankey's magic moment - but the visitors almost grabbed a lucky equaliser just 60 seconds later, midfielder Anouk Hoogendijk floating over a cross that struck the far post.

And in the 77th minute Brown had to make a diving save from a Melis header.

But England closed the game out well to put themselves well within sight of making automatic progress to Sweden 2013.

England: Brown, J Scott, Bradley, Stoney, Houghton, A Scott, F Williams, Aluko, Carney (Asante 72), Yankey, R Williams (White 46). Subs (not used): Chamberlain, Unitt, Bassett, Moore, Susi.

Netherlands: Geurts, Bito, Koster, Van den Berg (Stentler 85), Van Den Heiligenberg, Hoogendijk, Heuver (Brumel 72), Spitse, Pieete (Smit 74), Melis, Martens. Subs (not used): Van Veenendaal, Hogewoning, Van Lunteren, Van Eyck.

Bookings: None

Referee: J Palmqvist